'Horrifying': Man charged in complex investigation involving dozens of Edmonton arsons

A man is facing multiple charges in connection with a rash of arsons in the Alberta Avenue area, and police are calling him a key suspect in a complex investigation.

Darcy Willier, 38, was arrested on Wednesday. He has been charged with seven counts of arson, two counts of arson with disregard for human life, and several firearms-related charges.

The Edmonton Police Service held a press conference on Thursday to update the investigation.

Acting Staff Sgt. Dave Graham said police realized they had a serial arsonist on their hands in August of 2021. A team was set up to look into the fires.

Graham says they investigated over 100 fires in the area in 2021 and 2022. They were able to link 44 to the arson investigation.

“We were able to relate them together. To whether it was persons of interest, or addresses, or owners, but we were able to connect them,” he said.

Graham wouldn’t go into detail about additional suspects in the case, but confirmed that more charges could be coming.

“The investigation is ongoing, so we’re hoping to get there with additional suspects, but we’re just following the evidence at this point. And at this point it’s led us square on Darcy Willier, and that’s why we’ve charged him now.”

Graham confirmed that the person in photos sent out by police in relation to the fires on June 7 is Willier.

He also spoke to the frustration of some in the community who have been waiting for charges for more than a year.

“We know this is horrifying. Like the stories they were telling us, it’s awful. So this was a high priority from the time that it happened until now. And we didn’t stop working on it.”

“Arson investigations are really complex, and this one in particular. It involved multiple locations, multiple persons of interest, limited evidence.”

COMMUNITY RESPONSE

Dorothy Roberts lost her home in a deliberately set fire on June 17, 2021. Police sent out surveillance video of two people carrying gas cans in her yard before the blaze started earlier this month in hopes of generating information.

Investigators haven’t confirmed to her whether or not the fire that destroyed her home is one that Willier has been charged with. In fact, she says she’s heard almost nothing from the police in the last year.

“I talked to a constable the day of the fire. We talked to a detective a couple of weeks later, but he didn’t contact me or my partner. We had to track down his business card from one of our neighbours. And then we didn’t hear anything until the day they released the surveillance footage,” she told CTV News.

Roberts said police received the surveillance video the morning of the fire. She wants to know why it took them a year to release it to the public.

“The house was a total loss. It was a 1913 home, one of the oldest houses in the neighbourhood. Ninety nine per cent of our belongings were destroyed, and our cats, Gordon and Buffy, didn’t survive,” she said.

She and her partner are in the process of rebuilding, but supply chain issues are slowing down the project.

Meanwhile, she says her neighbours are living in fear.

“Every night, people are hearing fire trucks driving by and thinking, ‘Oh my god, could it be my house next?’”

ADDITIONAL INVESTIGATIONS ONGOING

In addition to the arson investigation, Graham says the police drug and gang team conducted a parallel investigation, which led to the seizure of drugs and a gun.

“Yesterday they executed search warrants and seized a significant amount of fentanyl, over a kilogram, and a firearm,” he said. “This investigation is ongoing, and further information will be provided by the Drug and Gang Enforcement Unit at a later date.” 

Willier has a long criminal history, court records show. He has convictions for failing to stop a vehicle and evading an officer, and possession of stolen property over $5,000. 

Graham also said on Thursday that Willier is connected with Abdullah Shah, also known as Carmen Pervez.

The notorious Edmonton landlord was fatally shot earlier this year. The investigation into his death is still ongoing.

Police have not connected Shah to the arsons.